Hi! It’s Annie!
This C-Drama has been widely advertised by Netflix for a while and I saw praise for it all over a bunch of my social media, so I wanted to try it. I mean, in a lot of ways it seemed right up my alley. A timeless love story between a sweet flower fairy and a villain considered so bad that the thought of him ever breaking out of prison was considered unthinkable. Firstly, that gears it up perfectly for a grumpy/sunshine romance which is one of my favorite romance tropes. But secondly, it reminded me of all of the darker versus lighter dynamics in some of my favorite mythological love stories. Like Eros and Psyche or Hades and Persephone. So I knew I was going to have to try this one and I’m very glad that I did. Was it an absolutely perfect watch? Probably not. There were a few things that honestly disappointed me. But I feel like it absolutely blew me away in all of the places that really counted for the most part. The rest of my review will be full of MAJOR SPOILERS, so be warned. If you’re considering giving this one a try, go ahead! It’ll be worth your time, I promise!
The Male Lead- I always seem to like Dylan Wang in anything. He’s a really charming actor and he brings depth to whatever role he takes on. Dongfang Qingcang was the perfect male lead for this drama. I was worried that he would be too stoic or that we would eventually get one of those brooding storylines where he decides that he’s too dangerous for the main female lead. We never got any of that. Instead we got this beautiful arc that affected all elements of his character. He went from heavily relying on his power of hellfire and his hatred for his father to learning that he could be powerful by restoring his emotions and that sometimes there is power and goodness in feelings like pain. He went from being highly irritable to being the main form of support to many people and a giant caretaker. And his personality did not have to change completely for them to successfully complete this storyline. It was understandable and, frankly, touching. This is also another drama I’ve seen the male lead cry in, which I absolutely loved. I loved that this drama never shied away from showing his emotion and capacity for empathy.
The Female Lead- When the drama first started, I honestly felt like she was going to be annoying. She had this kind of high pitched and nasally voice and she acted kind of childish at times. But it was all part of the process and, after only a couple of episodes, I found her far more endearing than annoying. I loved her capacity for light, empathy, and understanding. And overall, I like how her tendency to indulge in those things taught the main male lead a better way of living rather than the male lead just remaining completely unaffected. I’m sure most of us suspected her of being the missing goddess much sooner than it was revealed, but I liked that it wasn’t revealed until the very end. I liked how innocent she was and how she also had to change to become more open minded about the moon clan. I also liked that the story very slowly showed her becoming stronger to the point where she could survive the moon clan punishment for three days in order to fight for her marriage with Dongfang Qingcang. I always love a romance where they let the woman fight for it too and I loved this character by the end.
The Romance- They didn’t set out to write a regular romance. They set out to write a romance that felt like it belonged in some form of mythology. Something that felt timeless and never ending. And they absolutely succeeded at that. The romance starts out very pure and the characters have to go through developing mutual trust, friendship, and then love. They are sometimes hit with drama that I thought could get a little on the excessive side, but in the end it all worked out really well. And though the kissing scenes are lovely, you’ll find that they can feel a little scarce; but they more than make up for that in other ways. They both fight for their relationship on multiple occasions to the point that they both die for their love at different points. (They come back to life, don’t worry.) They both are extremely lonely and a huge point of their relationship is curing the other of their loneliness by being together. (This is what reminded me most of Eros and Psyche.) The parts that really made me cry in this drama didn’t have to do with the character deaths, though I cried at those too. I sobbed when Dongfang Qingcang was trapped in his ideal dream with the fake Orchid after her death and made the decision to leave. When the fake Orchid started sobbing about the possibility of him having to watch her marry another man if he brought her back to life and watching him start to cry at that same possibility broke me. Then I sobbed again at the speech that he gave Orchid when he thought she was completely taken over by the goddess, where he told her that he respected her decision to marry someone else but that he’d never forget Orchid because she truly loved him when everyone else in the world either hated or admired him. I’m not ok after all of that. This romance was so touching and felt so raw that they made the audience feel it. And all of the simultaneous love and pain that went with it.
Side Characters- I was surprised at how good the side characters were. My favorite though was probably either Shang Que or Danyin. Firstly, Shang Que can shapeshift into a black dragon which is badass. But also, he was the most adorable character in the entire show. He was kind of like a puppy dog. Very loyal and so adorable. And there was always this sense of comfort when he came on screen. My only qualm here is that we only saw him morph into the black dragon once, which makes me wonder if the show had a budget problem for that animation. Danyin had a crush on Chang Heng, the second lead, for most of it. But she was a complete badass. I loved when she pledged herself as a brother to him at the end after having gotten over a crush and scolded him for gender stereotyping when he expressed confusion at this. Jieli was also a character that I enjoyed; I thought they did amazingly with the female characters here. I also ended up loving Xun Feng at the end of it even though I thought I’d hate him at first. He became such a great brother to Dongfang by the end and his unwavering devotion was admirable.
The Music- Gorgeous. Absolutely gorgeous. I want it playing in my head forever. I loved the traditional music throughout the show. It made it feel even more ethereal.
The Visuals- The pastels and the gorgeous auburn trees made me swoon. I loved the way this drama looked. If I could choose a fictional place to live, I think I would choose Arbiter Hall after this.
Body Swapping- I don’t think I will ever find a version of body swapping that I like. They only do it for a couple of episodes here, but I really didn’t enjoy it. And I especially didn’t like that they did the body swap at the introduction of Dongfang. The first time we see Dylan Wang act as any character in this drama, it’s him acting as Orchid in Dongfang’s body. Considering he’s such an intimidating and formidable character, this introduction was not at all what I wanted from an intro to such a badass character.
Inconsistent Powers- I understand that Dongfang lost his ability to use hellfire, but the amazing powers that he shows at the very beginning almost never come up again. I wanted to see more badass moments like when he shows up and protects Orchid when she’s about to be killed by the heavenly court. It was one of my favorite moments in the entire drama. I just wanted more of it!
The Villains- This has to be one of my largest concerns with the entire drama. There are three villains in the drama. There’s an ancient evil god that they don’t really have to deal with until the end, the Lord of the fairies, and the leader of the heavenly court. There were times where I forgot all three of these villains even existed and I could never find it in me to care about them or any of the storylines attached to them. Ronghao, the Lord of the fairies, has this whole backstory about how he was a blind beggar boy who froze to death one day and was saved and made immortal by his master. The entire time he’s trying to bring his master, the original goddess of war, back to life. But the character had almost no depth and I couldn’t care about his backstory or the goddess of war. There was nothing empathetic here to really hold onto and they don’t even really wrap up his story by the end. The leader of the heavenly court is just annoying most of the time. And the ancient evil god that pops up has no history or plot at all. He’s just there to make things harder for the main characters. I just wish the villains would have been better.
Chang Heng- I had absolutely no second lead syndrome here. I know that this is an unpopular opinion, but I thought his character was annoying. He couldn’t seem to ever accept that Orchid just wasn’t that into him after she fell for Dongfang. He was constantly set on marrying her and neglected everyone around him, including Orchid at times, to ensure that it happened. I have no idea what he even thought he was doing by becoming a mortal. He said it was for Orchid but he never gave a clear reason. I just thought it was badass that Danyin decided to go after him. If he would have left the idea of Orchid alone after she had clearly dumped him I might have liked him better. But he just felt clingy after a little while and I felt like his character could have been so much more than that.
Being a Couple- I talk about this so much. Probably so much that regular readers are sick of hearing it. But I want to see my couples just being couples. I think it’s cute. And this drama didn’t like to see this couple just being a couple; whether it was preventing them from getting married or cutting off the drama too soon. Seriously, there was no reason for them to have not gotten married when they were first planning their wedding. I would have loved for them to have been married for the rest of the drama, it wouldn’t have affected the plot much, and it would have made Dongfang’s dream make more sense. The whole plot point about her having to marry Chang Heng came to nothing and felt pretty pointless anyways. They should have been married by the end of it. And I really wanted to see a little bit of adorable married life that wasn’t just Dongfang’s devastatingly cute dream reality.
I loved this drama! I had a few qualms with it, but nothing super substantial. This is something that I could see myself going back to for the timeless romance and for the aesthetics. It was a gorgeous drama in every way it could have possibly been. It made me cry and it made me feel so incredibly single. Unfortunately, all the absolute best dramas remind me the most of my singleness! Seriously, go watch this and see if you don’t cry! But it all ends happily and is mostly a lighthearted and cute watch, so don’t worry too much.
See you across the pond!